ARKANSAS, USA — A bill pre-filed by Arkansas Representative Mark Berry would increase the penalties for anyone who traffics or distributes fentanyl in Arkansas.
The CDC reports that fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 100 times stronger than morphine. The drug is often added to other drugs making them cheaper and more dangerous.
“Fentanyl is absolutely destroying our communities, and it's killing our kids. So we have to do something in order to keep fentanyl out of the state of Arkansas,” said Rep. Mark Berry.
Right now, the state penalty for distributing or trafficking fentanyl carries a minimum of 10 years in prison. This bill would increase that to 30 years.
If someone is convicted of distributing fentanyl to someone who dies, they would face life in prison under this proposal serving at least 30 years before they are eligible for parole.
Berry says he became aware of the amount of fentanyl passing through Arkansas while serving on a state police committee, once seeing 29 pounds of the drug that was confiscated near Russellville.
“That’s enough Fentanyl to kill everybody in the state of Arkansas and part of Tennessee. So, we have to get a lot of that stopped,” he said.
State officials reported 618 overdose deaths in 2021 and about 65% of them were from illicit fentanyl either by itself or in combination with other drugs.
Larry Kenemore is the North American task force leader for Rotary for the addiction prevention program. He says we should be training everyone how to use naloxone just like CPR.
“Recent research that came out from John Hopkins University shows that there is not even 10% of the amount of Naloxone and training that needs to be done in this country to save people. So we're way behind the curve of saving people's lives of overdoses,” said Kenemore.
He says rotary clubs across the world teach classes on how to use it and then hand it out.
“You hear people all the time tell us that they were standing on a street corner waiting for a streetlight to change in Ohio, and this person fell over right in front of them, and they look down and realize that they quit breathing. And they had Naloxone, whether that's, that's the issue is we need more of it,” he said.
This bill and others that have been filed will be heard during this upcoming Arkansas legislative session that starts this upcoming Monday (Jan. 9).
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